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Episode 125: Foot Strengthening Exercises

Video Highlights

- 5 different drills for strength and mobility
- A strong foundation benefits your entire body
- A simple test to determine a starting point

Today what I want to share with you is a series of five different foot mobility and strengthening exercises that your feet will love. If you’ve followed Z for any period of time, you know we spend a lot of time on the feet.

We talk about the feet. We talk about shoes. We talk about going barefoot as much as possible as long as it’s not painful for you. Because we really want people to have strong, mobile feet.

Lots of people talk about the hips and the core and all these other things, but if you have a lousy foundation it’s going to impact your whole body. We like to spend a lot of time, as I said, regaining the control and mobility and strength of the feet.

What I’m going to do today is show you a very fast series of exercises that you can do which should improve the mobility and the function of your foot. Now what I want to do first, though, is share a little test with you just to see where you’re at. I’m doing this seated to begin with.

The test is really simple. You need to take your shoes off. Usually for this, if you have the opportunity, take your sock off as well.

Your first test is simply big toe control vs. toe control, the other four. What I’m going to have you do is, with your foot in this position I want you to try to lift your big toe off the floor and leave your other four pushing. Then reverse it.

Just back and forth just like that. Now if you do this on each foot, what you may find is that one foot’s a little bit better than the other. You just want to be able to do that quick test. Now if it feels like you have a brick down there and nothing’s moving, that’s an indication that you really, really need these exercises that we’re about to go through.

If you can already do this, you may then want to retest it standing or with more weight on it, because if we get a little bit more weight on the foot, that will also give you some indication about where your level of mobility and control is at the start. We’ll begin with that test, and now we’re going to jump into some of the exercises.

Our first exercise is a toe press, not a toe curl. What you’re going to do is you’re going to put your foot on the ground. You simply want to press your toes flat into the ground. Most people when they first start trying to contract their toes wind up grabbing the ground like a monkey.

We’re going to do that later, but what I’m going to start off with is just being able to push the toes directly into the ground as hard as possible. I want you to hold that usually for six to seven seconds, and try doing that four or five times. One of the dangers here is cramping possibly.

If you start to cramp, just relax, shake it out for a second. That’s exercise number one.

Exercise number two we’re going to go into toe spreading. Now this one, you’re going to start, again, with your foot on the ground. What you want to do is widen your toes as much as you can, so spread them as much as you can and then bring them back together.

Spread them as much as you can, bring them back together. Once you bring them back together, try to squeeze them together and then open them apart. Squeeze together, open them apart.

We’re going to work on what’s called the intrinsic foot muscles with that. Can be very challenging in the beginning, so if it’s hard, you can rub the skin a little bit. You can actually manually help move your toes and then start working on rebuilding some of the motor control.

From there, we’re going to go to exercise number three, which is in our level two program we call flexion extension wave. Now basically, the first version of this you’re trying to be a monkey. You’re going to put your foot out in front of you. You’re going to start off with your toes pulled up towards your knee, both your ankle and your toes.

From here you’re going to grip. You’re going to imagine that there’s a ball and you’re going to try and grab the ball with your toes, and then with your architecture, and then eventually as you’re holding all that you want to point the whole foot down and then relax. We’re going to do that again. Imagine everything’s pulled up. We’re going to now grab like we’re grabbing a pencil or a ball.

Then we’re going to point the foot down. Then we’re going to relax. That’s what’s called the flexion wave part. Then we want to reverse that. We’re going to start in that down position as if we’re grabbing everything that we can. Then we’re going to start at the ankle. We’re going to pull our foot up, keeping those toes flexed. Then we’re going to finally extend the toes.

Again, it’s a nice waving motion from the bottom to the top. Once you’ve done that and you’ve gotten a little bit of motion back in the toes and you’re more aware of them, you’ve now worked the arch oft foot with the flexion extension wave or monkey exercise, the last two things that I’m going to tell you to do to just play with are basic walking on the ball of the foot or toe walking, and heal walking.

A couple of cautions on this. If you’re going to be doing these exercises as the standing version, you’re going to be bearing a lot more weight, so make sure that you’re on a padded surface to begin with like carpet or an exercise mat. I’m going to go to standing.

First exercise, really super simple. You’re going to go up on the balls of your feet. I simply want you to walk back and forth while maintaining that position. Normally 20 seconds done six to eight times is going to be enough information or enough strengthening work for the feet if you do it a couple times a day.

The second thing that you’re going to do after you’ve done the ball of the foot walking is you’re going to reverse it and you’re just going to walk on your heels. You’re going to get nice and tall, pull the toes and foot up, and heal walking. These are really simple rehabilitation exercises that are taught around the world. What we’ve found is that by doing the mobility work in the foot first and then following them with these particular exercises, you get a lot greater benefit from them.

Here’s a really fast summary of what we covered.

First of all, we did our test. Then we went into five different toe exercises and foot exercises. Number one was the toe press. Remember, don’t curl your toes; just press into the ground. You want to do that for six to eight seconds. Do that three or four times. From there we went into spreading the toes back and forth.

This is just more than anything else a mobility and motor control drill. Aim for ten to 15 repetitions. From there we went it to the monkey foot, what we call flexion extension waves. Usually what we try to get people to do on that particular exercise is five reps. Otherwise, they often will start to cramp. Just take it nice and easy with that one.

Then we finished up with ball foot walking and heal walking. For those, again, we’re looking for maybe 20 seconds done six to eight times. Now, it’s a fairly extensive library of exercises there. In total it’s going to take you about five minutes, five to seven minutes, so you might want to think about doing it half in the morning, half in the evening.

The whole idea here is mobilize those feet and make them stronger.

Now, if you have issues in the feet and you’re not responding to these exercises, we also have blogs on the ankle, and the knee, and the hip, and the eyes, and the inner ear, all of which can also contribute to foot issues.

Our biggest reminder always in everything that we teach is if you’re having a problem and you do some work and it doesn’t work, don’t give up.

There are lots of other options out there.

If you have any questions, anything that we can help you with, please let us know.

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